After visiting Calcutta’s many tourist attractions, what is the next best thing to do? Shopping. To many, shopping in Calcutta comes as top priority since the city has a number of interesting malls and open markets.
The five most popular shopping venues are the New Market on Lindsay Street, Dakshinapan Shopping Center on Ghariahat Road in Dhakuria, Forum Mall on Elgin Road, Chowringhee Road near the Oberoi Grand Hotel, and Oxford Bookstore on Park Street. The first stop is always New Market, also known as Hogg’s Market, since it is the city’s oldest and most well-known local market. It just blows away tourists as they navigate through more than 2,000 stalls. However, it could get too crowded and hot, and the bargaining too noisy.
Shopping in any local market is a perfect time to immerse yourself in local culture and experience how locals typically spend their days. In India, bargaining is a way of life, an exciting game that allows one to socialize and save on shopping expenses at the same time. Bargaining is expected and so tourists might want to try their hand at it. Below are a few tips on bargaining in Calcutta.
Shoppers should never reveal how much they are interested in an item. The most popular items in New Market are saris and pieces of jewelry (especially in the evenings). Like a good poker player, the most seasoned Calcutta shopper will pretend to be indifferent when asking for an item’s price and pretend to leave after hearing the initial offer. Foreign shoppers could be surprised how cheap the items are and therefore settle with the first asking price. As shoppers pretend to not care and go away, vendors will almost always give discounts. And the bargaining game begins. Prices can go as low as half the initial price.
Some vendors will ask, “How much do you want to pay for it?” Local shoppers will give an incredibly low price, hoping that they will end up with a price somewhere in the middle. Foreign shoppers also shouldn’t hesitate gunning for a ridiculously low price. If nothing works and the vendors won’t budge, it is best to go away. With a hundred other stalls to choose from, a number of shop owners will definitely offer an incredible discount.
Other than New Market, foreign shoppers might also want to try their bargaining skills at the Dakshinapan Shopping Center. This place is popular for its handicrafts, local artifacts, clothes, souvenir items, and local tea, the most famous of which is Dolly’s Tea. These items are all surprisingly cheap. The shopping center is open from 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday, and only until 2:00 p.m. on Mondays.
Meanwhile, the third most popular place to shop is Forum Mall, Calcutta’s first shopping mall. This 6-floor shopping center is for shoppers with extra money to spare since most items are top class. The Forum is famous for its signature clothes, shoes and fashion accessories. Shoppers also get to enjoy a number of bars, cinema houses, music stores and restaurants, the most famous of which is “Oh! Calcutta” restaurant. The Forum is closed on Sundays but stays open until 8:00 p.m. on Mondays and as late as 9:00 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday.
The fourth shopping place that foreigners shouldn’t miss is Chowringhee Road. Street vendors sell all kinds of souvenir items from saris to terracotta decorations to bizarre art pieces. These pavement vendors offer a unique shopping and cultural experience for everyone especially after sundown.
Finally, shopping in Calcutta should include books. The Oxford Bookstore offers a wide array of collections including local culture books, coffee-table books featuring the best of India, children’s books and so on. Oxford is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.